back to article Eggheads identify the last animal that will survive on Earth until the Sun dies

Humans are newcomers on Earth and it's almost certain that we won't be around, on this planet at least, when the solar system's star finally goes nova. But boffins have identified at least one animal that will be. It is estimated that our star will die in about five billion years, after growing to a red giant that will most …

  1. ArtFart

    Are you SURE that isn't Keith???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nope, it's too good looking to be Keith

      1. MrT
        Mushroom

        I'm not going to pass any comment until someone has sorted out a bowl of 1000 brown M&Ms.

        I will therefore defer to the wisdom and greater understanding of Del Preston in these matters...

    2. EastFinchleyite

      Mr Loaf

      I don't think it's Keef. A bit too fleshy.

      Much more likely to be Meatloaf.

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Boffin

    The power

    output of the sun is rising (well its surface temperature is)

    In about 1.5 billion years time it will be enough to get earth's average temp to about 60-70 degrees c..... at which point it stops raining and all the water in the oceans ends up in the atmosphere very rapidly.

    This increases the green house effect and air pressure at the surface resulting in a runaway action and earth ends up like venus.

    Surface temp 400c+, pressure 90bar+

    Enough to fry all life... even Keith Richards

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Re: The power

      I was given to understand that it was a giant Star Goat...

      Seriously tho, at the higher temps more water molecules will rise to heights where solar ultraviolet breaks the H-O-H bonds. Then the H will be not so gradually lost to space. It already happened in the case of Mars.

      This effect will directly compete with increasing water vapour in our atmosphere, Don't know the rates so I can't speculate, but it might never get to the Venus stage, instead assuming the "dead baked plain" aspect so common in time travel stories.

      Let's see how tuff the tardigrades are with no water, eh?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: The power

        Even if all the water on the surface is gone, there will be plenty of water remaining underground for them to live in.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The power

      output of the sun is rising (well its surface temperature is)

      ISTR reading somewhere that our sun is a variable of sorts. And we've not been able to measure its temperature for long, barely an eye blink of it's current age, so is it safe to make estimates based on almost no data?

    3. EastFinchleyite

      Re: The power

      "Enough to fry all life... even Keith Richards"

      From past experience I wouldn't be too sure about that. I reckon KR is the real Wolverine even if his tree climbing skills are a little short of Spiderman's. He has consumed or smoked enough uppers, downers or sidewayers to dispose of a fit elephant but, like the poor, he is always with us.

    4. Tim O'Connor

      Re: The power

      I read that in only 300 million years the Moon and Earth will become tidally locked and the Earth will rotate only once every 28 days - so 14 days at a time of pure darkness, followed by 14 days of nonstop sunlight! Also there will be little to no tides and major ocean currents will change radically or even cease altogether. The moon will only be visible from 1/2 of the earth and will appear in the sky at all times.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: The power Tidal Locking

        It will be about 50 BILLION years before the earth is tidally locked to the moon by which time neither will exist.

        1. HelpfulJohn

          Re: The power Tidal Locking

          "It will be about 50 BILLION years before the earth is tidally locked to the moon by which time neither will exist."

          It is possible for the Earth to survive the Red Sol phase and even to be somewhat intact and still orbiting after the Solar "Planetary" Nebula phase and into the era of White Dwarf Sol. Earth is rather a large rock with a quite large gooey center and it will take a lot of heat and friction over a long time to kill her.

          The Moon is not so sturdy. She's smaller, cooler in the middle, not made of such steely stuff and probably not destined to outlive Red Giant Sol.

          The future for Earth, then, may be a dry, dead, moonless, lunar-landscape world orbiting a slowly dying ex-star for the rest of Time.

          This is not a totally pessimistic ending. Life could survive it for many, many aeons. If humans invested in deep mining or hardy domes even they - or something that was descended from them - could. It wouldn't be exactly a fulfilling lifestyle full of joy ... there would be no atmosphere.

    5. Tikimon Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Here's how they are so tough

      Something important they left out is HOW they survive nasty things. Tardigrades in daily life are just as vulnerable as any other aquatic invertebrate. However, they can dry out to around 3% water content, going into suspended animation. In this encysted state, they can withstand gamma rays, hard vacuum, and other conditions meaning certain death to other terrestrial organism. Just add water to rehydrate them and they start foraging.

      So it's plausible that encysted tardigrades might be eroded or blasted off the dying Earth. Some might survive to reach other planets or star systems. Granted it's a long shot, but improbable does not mean impossible.

      And by the way, they are about the coolest thing you'll ever see through a microscope. Check out some video if you've never seen them.

    6. SealTeam6

      Re: The power

      I read somewhere (in a dependable publication) that the sun is indeed becoming hotter and that in around 800 million years the hottest point of the Earth will reach 100 degrees celsius. That is enough to start the oceans boiling. That's all the time we have, but it is still a lot considering that complex life only appeared 500 million years ago.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The power

        "the hottest point of the Earth will reach 100 degrees celsius. That is enough to start the oceans boiling."

        Nope. Salt water boils at a higher temperature than pure water.

        1. quxinot Silver badge

          Re: The power

          Depends on if there's still any atmosphere pressing on it.

          Even saltwater can boil at very low temperatures when exposed to a near vacuum.

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "Dwarf planets like Pluto and Eris might be able to, but are too far away to be a threat." - nothing like tempting fate is there :-)

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      "Dwarf planets like Pluto and Eris might be able to, but are too far away to be a threat." - nothing like tempting fate is there :-)

      Oi - Stop being sizist, Dwarf planets are just fine.

      Oh and don't forget that things get smaller the further they are away from you, that doesn't mean its not a threat. Consider a Tsunami on the horizon or a freight train on the same track as you.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Small/far away

        Obligatory Father Ted:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXypyrutq_M

    2. MrT

      Things move...

      "Dwarf planets like Pluto and Eris might be able to, but are too far away to be a threat." For now...

      Apparently, things in the solar system got very crashtastic for a while as Jupiter spiralled inwards in the very early stages, before being flung out to where it is now by Saturn. It's one of the reasons that there are two bands in the asteroid belt, one rocky and the other icy. Horizon (DailyMotion link).

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Things move...

        Exactly, human observation of the planetary motion has occurred over the last ~200years and more recently with any kind of accuracy.

        Planetary motion is chaotic and little changes over long periods of time can have a big impact.

  4. redpawn Silver badge

    Primitive Life?

    Primitive life can regenerate missing limbs because they are "primitive". We are improved. Lose even a finger or an adult tooth, too bad for you. Tardigrades seem like the ultimate primitive.

    These could probably be blasted off the planet in an asteroid strike and land on another planet in another star system and survive the trip.

    Too bad we aren't more "primitive".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Primitive Life?

      But we are! The tardigrades are our 'space-ready' larval stage, in an evolutionary sense.

      Well, someone's larval stage, anyway...

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Primitive Life?

      You just need a centrally held map on how the hell you are supposed to look like and rebuild rthe organism around that. It would even fix the cancer problems.

      Nature is too distributed.

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Primitive Life?

      Actually, biologically, there is nothing preventing us for regrowing lost body parts.

      Other than normal development and maturity. That is, it is a biological system turned off once at a certain age/development. In our case, extremely early.

      Some complex animals do retain it though https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regeneration_(biology) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolotl. If it's not beneficial/required for survival, then it is not retained/used in the animal. That does not mean it's impossible, or because it is "more developed".

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: Primitive Life?

        Actually, biologically, it's immune system that prevents you from regrowing lost body parts, call it a trade-off between being able to regrow lost leg or die from something as simple as a rotten fruit or mosquito sting.

    4. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Primitive Life?

      According to Wikipedia their Temporal range: Cambrian–Recent.

      Seriously? They've been around for as long as there's been complex life.

      (Almost, anyway).

    5. PK

      Re: Primitive Life?

      This could end up being a bit embarrassing for us humans, showing off with our progress and technology to get a mission all the way to Europa only to find that the Tardigrades have got there first...

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Primitive Life?

      "These could probably be blasted off the planet in an asteroid strike and land on another planet in another star system and survive the trip."

      maybe they already did...

      At first I'm like "no way is this thing real". Well, surprise!

  5. jake Silver badge

    This isn't news.

    Well, I guess in geologic time it's news, but the Boffins were talking about Keith Richards tardigrades out-surviving the proverbial cockroach in the event of a thermonuclear war when I was a kid. This was back in the early 1960s ... We studied them in elementary school. They are a nice, easy, difficult-to-kill, not dangerous, visible with minimal magnification critter seemingly made specifically for a 7 year old's science project. I called mine "The Michelin Clan".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This isn't news.

      I remember similar "Tuff Tardigrade" articles in '70s as well. A perennial favourite.

  6. heyrick Silver badge
    Happy

    The perfect critter

    Armoured skin, clingy claws, front mounted cannon... It's basically a biological Tachikoma. What's not to like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The perfect critter

      Yes, but can it wisecrack?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: The perfect critter

        Only when given natural oil

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    I for one

    ... welcome our sub-millimetre overlords

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Woodlice (pill-bugs to you over there) also stand a good chance.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Sow bugs or roly-polys ...

      ... over here. They have many other names, world-wide. Second handiest critters to cultivate (after worms) if you are into composting.

  9. emullinsabq

    maybe indirect dependence on other life forms

    Life tends to need the ability to utilize energy to survive. The scenarios didn't seem to look very closely at what the environment might be like 10, 100, 1000, 10000 years later. Any life would have to be able to draw energy from that environment, or evolve that ability.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Prof, please!

    If Tardigrades are Earth's most resilient species, who knows what else is out there?

    Well, either nothing or more tardigrades?

    1. HelpfulJohn

      Re: Prof, please!

      "If Tardigrades are Earth's most resilient species, who knows what else is out there?

      Well, either nothing or more tardigrades?"

      Galaxy-wide fungal networks to feed two-meter long water bears. perhaps?

      "ST:Discovery".

  11. Amorous Cowherder
    Pint

    Tough? Pah!

    Get 'em down my local on a Friday night, watch 'em tip some nutter's pint over and then we'll see how tough they think they are!

  12. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Holmes

    Pfft, the last living thing on Earth will be lawyers...

    Or perhaps telemarketers.

    1. richardcox13

      Re: Pfft, the last living thing on Earth will be lawyers...

      Telemarketers for lawyers.

      1. Fibbles

        Re: Pfft, the last living thing on Earth will be lawyers...

        Have you been exposed to a gamma ray burst that wasn't your fault?

      2. GrapeBunch Silver badge

        Re: Pfft, the last living thing on Earth will be lawyers...

        Not living, merely Undead.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Pfft, the last living thing on Earth will be lawyers...

          I'm pretty certain They Live ...

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    I guess the question is what makes them so very hard to kill

    And can you incorporate any of those mechanisms into things humans can fly in space.

    Being able to shut the body down completely for a few decades sounds like it could save a lot of food mass for example, while anything that increases radiation resistance should lower shielding mass, also good if you don't happen to have a convenient sized asteroid handy.

  14. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Alien

    Instant space travel

    Inject my DNA into lots of tardigrades.

    Seal them into thousands of tiny water soluble spheres.

    Blast them into space in all directions.

    Probability will ensure that some will land on watery planets.

    After a lengthy evolution I will become conscious on my new home, instantly from *my* point of view.

    The only downside is if the rich get the same idea, I could wake up on planet of the Trumps. The horror! :(

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Instant space travel

      Let's go even more Sci-Fi and take it to the extreme.

      If we assume* the universe is infinite, then we can assume every possible arrangement of mass, energy, and thus information actually exists.

      So we can conclude you are already on another planet, all types of planets, in lots of places. In fact, assuming an infinite universe, there is also a planet made entirely of millions of you!

      Picture for what happens to a mind if it tries to extrapolate to infinity with insufficient information.

      *here in lies the problem, and possible mistake. So don't worry about it!

      1. Fink-Nottle

        Re: Instant space travel

        > the universe is infinite, then we can assume every possible arrangement of mass, energy, and thus information actually exists.

        Whenever I feel sad, I take solace in the fact that somewhere in the multiverse a planet populated entirely with Jeremy Clarksons has just been vaporised by a Death Star.

      2. Vic

        Re: Instant space travel

        Picture for what happens to a mind if it tries to extrapolate to infinity with insufficient information.

        Hey man, is that a piece of fairy cake? My stomach’s just completely out to lunch.

        Vic.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Instant space travel

      If you were to take all life on earth and convert it into dna mass wise and blast it into space by the time it got to Alpha Centuri their would be 1 dna molecule for every 100km2 or so. So the chance of a single viable cell landing on a planet even at that close range is pretty slim. For it to find a viable habitat...

    3. GrapeBunch Silver badge

      Re: Instant space travel

      The new you won't have any memory of the old you. Perhaps that's how life got to Earth in the first place. And of course you don't blast them into space naked, you put then into icy or rocky bodies that might become gravitationally attracted to a planet-sized body, out there. Search term: "Hoyle–Wickramasinghe model of panspermia"

      For the here and now, the more profitable tack may be to offer, for a price, to attach somebody else's DNA to the junk DNA of a tardigrade.... and either to put it back in the ocean or send it to Mars. Offer not valid where prohibited by law.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Instant space travel

        I could make a case that anyone stupid enough to pay to get their DNA attached is, by definition, contributing junk DNA ... The Tardigrade's DNA isn't junk by virtue of longevity.

    4. Ben Bonsall

      Re: Instant space travel

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rimmerworld

    5. Gordon Pryra

      Re: Instant space travel

      Planet of the Trumps?

      Would that not be called "New Moscow"?

  15. CliveS
    Coat

    Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth

    I'll just put this here and walk away.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlmmvkV5olE

    PS. Mine's the one with the copy of Prog magazine in the pocket.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth

      This is a teaser for Half-Life 3, right?

    2. Pudders
      Unhappy

      Re: Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth

      They already have, that's the point, and it was long long ago. We're just squatting.

    3. Fink-Nottle

      Re: Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth

      Hey ... that video shows the same school of sign language as the guy that did the Mandela funeral.

      1. CliveS
        WTF?

        Re: Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth

        The guy doing the "sign language" is Nick Beggs, guitarist, bassist and vocalist with The Mute Gods, and former member of Kajagoogoo...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth

          Art Nouveau? Now THERE's a name from my past ...

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    What if

    we create a hybrid by splicing the DNA of Tardigrades and Keith Richards?

    Not only would it survive anything, it could play four guitars simultaneously at the same time!

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: What if

      Spliced and cloned, we could use Hawking's idea of microships to send them out to colonize the galaxy. It would be a very cool, laid back, chainsmoking galaxy that rocks.

  17. fobobob

    Read the headline.. immediately thought 'tardigrades' ... was not disappointed.

  18. handleoclast

    the planet has billions of years to play with before the sun goes night-night

    Ummm, actually, no.

    The sun will swell up into a red giant that will engulf the earth, wiping out the Keithigrades. Ummm, Water Richards. Whatever. Not so much the sun going night-night as going day-day.

    A long time after that the sun will become a white dwarf. And a very long time after that the white dwarf will cool off to the point where it is no longer luminous in our visible spectrum. But that will be a really long time after the red giant killed off all the tardikeiths.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: the planet has billions of years to play with before the sun goes night-night

      How would the swelling of the sun into a red giant affect planetary orbits? From memory Earth is currently outside the projected size of the sun as a red giant, but by then there will be less solar mass and therefore Earth, and other planets, would likely to be further away from the sun due to the reduction in the sun's gravity.

      1. Alan Johnson

        Re: the planet has billions of years to play with before the sun goes night-night

        In the red giant phase the size of the sun is such that it engulfs the earth. That would then affect the earths orbit but it is then irrelevant.

  19. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    The science fiction angle did immediately jump to my brain

    A sort of Plannet of the Apes, where humans (and perhaps most animals) are no more but the Tardis have plenty of time to evolve and fill all vacant ecological niches. Scaled up, the eight limbs can become all sorts of different things. Would they develop eyes, as has happened several time over the evolution of species? Or...?

    Fun thoughts. Choosing a hero, now, and working out a future tardi culture: challenging.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: The science fiction angle did immediately jump to my brain

      "A sort of Plannet of the Apes, where humans (and perhaps most animals) are no more but the Tardis have plenty of time to evolve and fill all vacant ecological niches."

      The Tardis?

      Methinks being able to skip ahead and see how things are turning out could significantly speed up the evolution of the line.

  20. Richard Boyce

    Food

    Even Tardigrades are part of a food chain. On their own, they're doomed.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Food

      True, would there be enough other organisms alive for tardigrades to feed on them? Chemical/energy input has to come into the food chain somewhere therefore they can't survive on other tardigrades for long.

  21. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    Bearish

    In reply to "What do you think about the future of life on this planet?", the answer: "I'm Bearish" would thus be optimistic, rather the opposite of markets. Come to think of it, markets are rather the opposite of nature.

  22. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    Not Speckless Sky

    I think we need to speak with the Water Bears' representatives about the fate of life on earth. I was not able to speak to any Waterbury's, but did achieve the next best thing. Jane Sea-Bear-y says I'd probably be famous if I wasn't such a good Waitress. Just about sums it up, eh?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a red giant that will most likely engulf earth

    can we, like, not tow it away when it starts to happen. I mean, for the sake of good old days, when we had this corporate form, and all that...

  24. ibmalone Silver badge

    The nearest star

    Is 1 a.u. away...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The prettiest star

      Is 1 db.u. away ...

  25. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    "The seas will boil and the plasma from the sun will flay our planet down to its iron core"

    I'm a little bit upset about that.

    1. Ben Bonsall

      Yes, I can understand.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oooooh shiiiiiit...

    Only 5 billion years to prepare.

    Is that long enough to make a protective jacket out of billions of these things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oooooh shiiiiiit...

      Yes but don't put it off until the last second.

  27. MJI Silver badge
    Devil

    I thought the last surviving organism would have been

    Richard Hammond

    Red car of course, not on fire

  28. DagD

    More blah from the science community...

    That bear is a water creature. All aquatic life will be long destroyed by pollution before the sun goes super nova.

    Try again.

  29. Tinslave_the_Barelegged
    Alien

    Hedging bets

    This is why I follow @mrwaterbear, aka Tardigrade Supreme, on Twitter. He may be a bit overbearing in demanding human subjection, but it'll be worth it in the long run.

  30. Rol Silver badge

    Last life standing?

    That'll be the one with the technical ability, not biological fortitude.

    It may seem odd that a human would want to stick around when all around is turning nasty, but never underestimate the madness that underlies our species.

    I assume in a few billion years we will have developed materials and mechanisms that would allow us to colonise the surface of the Sun if we so wished, so continuing to live on Earth once it has turned toxic to all life isn't so far fetched.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cant beat my neighbour.

    The creature looks like my neighbour. I am sure he is one of them, that will survive eternally and be a nasty everywhere he looks !

  32. kbutler.toledo

    Tuff Guys, Huh?

    So, OK. They are tough little buggers.

    But the one in the illus. seems to have lost two of her eight legs.

  33. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Joke

    Is no one going to talk about

    "can even exist and be revived after 10 days of being exposed to the vacuum of space"

    Revived?

    Who developed the tech to enable intubation and defibrillation for a water bear?

    Who worked out the compression/breath ratio ?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Is no one going to talk about

      Your questions are nonsensical. Tardigrades have no respiratory organs. To revive, just add water and heat through.

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